What Causes Melena Stools or Black Tarry Stools

Melena is the medical term for black tarry stools. Its primary cause is bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Melena is black and tarry
  • It may also have a foul smell
  • The color is caused by the oxidation of the iron in the blood as it goes through the digestive system.
  • The black color is usually an indication of a bleed in the UPPER GI TRACT
  • For this reason, Melena is often indicative of bleeding in the stomach or in the small intestines.
  • It could also be indicative of slow bleeding in the lower GI.
  • Fresh blood in the stool is an indication of bleeding in the lower GI or in the rectum and sigmoid colon. This is called hematochezia.

What Causes Melena Stools

There are a number of causes of Melena stools, but the main thing is that it is caused by hemorrhage somewhere in the GI tract, usually in the upper portion.

The possible causes of Melena include:

  • Peptic Ulcer Disease
  • Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Ingestion of blood – this can result from trauma or from bleeding in the mouth or in the oral and pharyngeal areas, including nose bleeds.
  • Overdose form Anticoagulants
  • Hemorrhagic Blood Diseases (e.g. Hemophilia)
  • Melena may also occur in newborns around 2 or 3 days after birth. This is mostly due to swallowing blood from the mother.

What is Fake Melena

  • Black tarry do not always indicate blood in the stool.
  • It can also be brought on by the use of medication including those that contain iron or lead.

What are the Treatments Involved in Black Stool

Most of the time, Melena is not considered a medical emergency because the bleed is slow. Here are possible treatments.

  • Coagulants
  • Antibacterial drugs – for Helicobacter Pylori that causes ulcers
  • Antacids

Investigation as to the source of the bleed may also be performed. This can include imaging studies and fecal analysis.

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